” I believe that art has a power to challenge our preconceived perceptions and suggest new perspectives. Fujiwara’s “Code Unknown” is an ambitious work that explores a new approach towards the issue of portrait rights and privacy that we often face in today’s visual culture”.
By Brad Feuerhelm
IMA gallery’s main focus is to help young Japanese photographers promote their work internationally. It organizes themed group exhibitions by young artists and has a multilayered program, which includes lectures, workshops and events.
BF: You have some very dynamic works that you are bringing with you from Japan this year. Hideyuki Ishibashi and Yoshinouri Mizutani make very colourful work, although very different in approach. Can you tell our readership what IMA Gallery looks for in a photographer/artist when they choose to represent them?
Mutsuko Ota: I first came across Mizutani’s work while working as a jury for a photography award, and Ishibashi came to show us his book. In pursuing IMA’s main aspiration to foster emerging Japanese photographers, IMA magazine has pages dedicated to younger artists, IMA Gallery organizes their group exhibitions, and IMA photobooks actively publish books featuring their work. We also launched an online fundraising platform to support those who seek professional careers in photography. Additionally, we now have IMA PHOTO SCHOOL, which organises regular workshops and an annual portfolio review event to discover and support young talents. Through these events, we came across a number of gifted photographers, a few of whom are now represented by IMA gallery. We value the quality of the artist’s oeuvre and also their enthusiasm towards the creative process.
BF: Satoshi Fujiwara, ‘Code Unknown’ is a fantastic journey through fragmented images of passengers on a train. He has elaborated that the work in adage to Michael Hannecke film of the same title. It is a compelling work where the fragments of the passengers on the train are details in which a potential audience projects their imagination of the subject’s being onto the image, trying to “read” the person in a particular moment. This is very difficult work to look in a way. It is not always “pretty”. Can you tell us how you have come to choose the work and what it means to exhibit a work like this in the same space as a much more visually appealing body of work like Yoshinouri Mizutani’s “Tokyo Parrots”?
MO: I believe that art has a power to challenge our preconceived perceptions and suggest new perspectives. Fujiwara’s “Code Unknown” is an ambitious work that explores a new approach towards the issue of portrait rights and privacy that we often face in today’s visual culture. While Mizutani’s “Tokyo Parrots” may appear as a series of ‘pretty images’ at first glance, it skilfully captures flocks of foreign parakeets that have become wild and increased dramatically in number over the past decades, portraying a distorted and extraordinary relationship between human and wildlife in Tokyo’s urban landscape. Both artists create compelling work not through traditional documentary style straight photography, but through their unique “filters” or techniques – daylight synchroflash in Mizutani’s case and close-up shots in Fujiwara’s. This year, we showcase a group of vivid pictorial works that visually engage us with the issues that contemporary society confronts. Simultaneously, they reveal the emergence of a new generation of Japanese photographers whose styles are different from the legendary masters such as Araki and Moriyama.
@ Yoshinouri Mizutani
@ Yoshinouri Mizutani
“IMA participates in Paris Photo, and this year we exhibited at Photo London for the first time. Both of them are prestigious fairs but I believe UNSEEN is the most relevant one for IMA as we share the same ambition to spot, support and promote younger artists”.
BF: The IMA Concept store has a program that focuses not only on fairs like Unseen, but also a physical space with an educational series and bookstore. IMA magazine is also an internationally renown photography magazine. Does IMA Gallery tend to work with international artists or has its focus been mostly Japanese artists?
MO: Following IMA’s original aim to promote the idea of ‘living with photography’, we introduce notable international photographers to the Japanese audience on one hand, and promote Japanese photography trends abroad on the other. Additionally, we publish articles on the history of photography so as to cultivate the Japanese audience, who may not have a comprehensive understanding of art photography. IMA gallery is a space that brings the magazine into a real life experience, so we work with both domestic and international photographers
BF: You have exhibited at Unseen previously. Why does IMA Gallery come back to Amsterdam every year?
MO: IMA participates in Paris Photo, and this year we exhibited at Photo London for the first time. Both of them are prestigious fairs but I believe UNSEEN is the most relevant one for IMA as we share the same ambition to spot, support and promote younger artists. I see a strong parallel between IMA and UNSEEN as the artists that we work with closely, such as Mizutani and Nerhol have been praised by UNSEEN (FOAM). We participated in UNSEEN as a publisher last year, and are thrilled to be back as a gallery this time. It is a great opportunity for us to introduce the Japanese emerging talents to the wider international audience.
BF: Unseen is a large fair for photography. It has educational programs and a magazine very much like IMA. What is your favourite part of Unseen’s Program?
MO: Compared to other art fairs, UNSEEN has a festive atmosphere, where everyone can enjoy photography in an accessible and relaxed manner. I’m looking forward to the UNSEEN TALENT AWARD and also open air exhibitions, which makes UNSEEN very different from other fairs.
(All rights reserved. Text @ ASX. Images @ the artists.)